Americans’ hunger for healthier, more sustainable food options continues to grow, and a good food marketplace is maturing to meet it. Donors and impact investors can help grow that market, and thereby a better food system for all.

For the last two years, I’ve argued in multiple venues that one of the keys to improving Americans’ health, cleaning up our environment, and creating a more equitable society is cultivating a good food system—one that makes delicious, nutritious, sustainably produced food accessible to all. I’ve also argued that creating such a system will require both traditional grant making and the use of financial investments that feed good food businesses and help grow a better food marketplace even as they generate returns. Along the way, I’ve discovered many opportunities for donors and investors to get involved and help build a better food future. Here are three of them.

Three Ways to Invest

Invest in Sustainably Managed Farmland

Today’s agriculture too often uses synthetic chemicals and industrial products that compromise soil fertility, biodiversity, and food’s nutritional benefits. Investing in sustainably managed farmland can help drive a shift toward more holistic and regenerative approaches to food production. It can also produce strong financial returns.

Domestic farmland has appreciated approximately five percent annually for the past decade, and skyrocketing demand for organic produce is now accelerating both the growth of new organic farms and the conversion of existing farms to organic. Philanthropists and impact investors can use their capital to help bring economies of scale to organic farming, creating better incentives for restorative farming practices. Alternatively, they can provide concessionary capital to create a cushion as farmers go organic.

Support the Drive to Sustainable Livestock Production

Donors and investors can also help drive a shift toward sustainably raised livestock. Demand for organic, grass-fed, and pasture-raised livestock is growing exponentially, as such practices are more humane, environmentally friendly, and tend to produce more nutritious food. By supporting ranches and farms committed to sustainable livestock production, funders can help shift the market and bring scale to these businesses, too.

Dive into Sustainable Aquaculture

Advances in fishing techniques and rising consumer demand now seriously threaten world seafood supplies. Scaling sustainable seafood practices can help position us to replenish seafood stocks, improve health and diversity in seafood, and protect marine ecosystems.

Sustainable aquaculture creates environmentally neutral and healthy seafood that can help support rising demand for healthy protein sources. We see opportunities for donors and impact investors to use grants, equity, and debt capital to support large capital investments in recirculating aquaculture systems that enable land-based fish farming in areas much closer to urban centers, where traditional aquaculture would be impossible. These can help produce more healthy food that doesn’t have to be shipped long distances to reach the people who need it.

These are only three of the many opportunities I’ve seen, which range from improving planting practices to reducing food waste. Yet together, they would make a great start, improving our lands, our seas, and the lives of the people—ultimately, all of us—who depend upon them.


Original Contribution by Eric Kessler, Founder, Principal, and Senior Managing Director at Arabella Advisors.